Canada - Memorial University of Newfoundland DAI

Canada - Memorial University of Newfoundland DAI




00 Richard A Beinert

A thes is submitted to the


in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts

Depart ment of Religious Studies

Memoria l University of Newfoundland

October, 2003

S1.John's Newfou ndland


The lapidary literatu re of the Middle Ages has been over looked as a source for the

stud y of medie val Christ ian piety. These stone-lists, which expounded the magica l and

medicinal powers of sto nes, enjoyed a broad circulatio n througho ut Europe both as Latin

scientific wr itings as we ll as popu lar vernacular medicinal and religious texts. Recent

scholarship in medie val lapidary literature has tended to marginalize the texts, treating

them either as naive prolegomena to modem scient ific stud ies or as examples of an

undercurrent of fabulous or pagan folk life. Investigations in the manu script sources and

distribution of the lapidary texts, howeve r, show that the medieval lapidary was a

popular , creative, and widely used genre of literature throughout Euro pean civi lization .

Scientific writers sought to explai n the formation and various virtues of stones within the

Aristo telian framework of medieval scholarship. Encycloped ic lapidaries were used in

the univers ity and royal court alike . Theo logical reflections within the literatu re claim

divine authors hip for the powers and virtues of stones as framed within the medieval

doctrine of exempkmsm, The vernacular language lapidary texts also give indicat ion of

the contours and characteristics of the popular piety ofthe unlettered masses , Given this

bro ad spectrum of medieva l societ y which is reflected withi n the lapidary texts , the

lapidary literature of the Middle Ages is a veritab le 'treasure chest ' for the stud ent of

medieval religious life, offerin g a panoramic view of the religious piety - bot h scholarly

and popular - of medieva l Euro pean civilization.


J would like to thank all of the people who have helped to bring this thesis project

to completion. Inparticular, I would like to thank Susan Kearsey for her untiring help in

track ing down library references w hile 1 continued my resear ch from out-of-province,

Vicar Lome Manweiler for his help in proo f-reading and his formatting advise, my

supervis or, Dr . David N. Bell, for his patience and for sharing the wisdom of his learning

and experience with me, my loving wife Valerie for hcr unceasing encouragem ent and

badgering to 'get the thesis done,' and lastly, my son Kiernan who taught me to dream a




Table of Contents

Abbrevia tions

Chapter I Introd uction


Chapter 2 Manuscri pt Sources of Medieva l Lapidary Knowledge 13

2. 1 Classical Sources 14

2.2 Popular Medieval Lapidaries 23

2.3 Scientific Lapidaries 27

2.4 Christian Symbolic Lap idar ies 32

2.5 Conclusion 34

Chapter 3 Descriptio n ofa Medieva l Lapidary 37

3.1 Introdu ction and Prologue 38

3.2 The List of Stones 41

3.3 Conclusio n 53

Chapter 4 Med ieval Science on the Virtues of Stones 55

4.1 On the Causes of Stones 57

4.2 Accide ntal Properties of Stones 60

4.3 On the Powers of Stones 62

4.4 Onthe Physiological Actions of Stones 67

4_5 Conclusion 69

Chapter 5 The Theo logical Dimension of Medieval Stone-Lore 70

5.1 The Powers of Precious Stones 71

5.2 Jesus Christ the Cornerstone 74

5.3 Stone.sandSacraments 8 1



5.4 The Catechetical Use of Stones 85

5.5 Stones and the Contemplative Life 90

5.6 Conclusion 94

Chapter 6 Vernacular Piety as Reflected in Medieval Lapidary Texts 96

6.1 Popular Bxemplarism 98

6.2 Pragmatic Orientation 101

6.3 Accessingthe Divine Power within Stones 107

6.4 Syncretism of Religious Sources and Ideas 115

6.5 Popular Spirituality 123

6.6 Excursus on the Transmission of Lapidary-Knowledge 128

6.7 Conclusion 132

Chapter 7 Conclusion 134

Bibliography 139


in both ancient Greece and Rome composed early treatises on store-lore." From at leas!

the seventh centu ry with Isido re of Seville and certainl y from the eleventh centu ry with the

landmark sto ne-list of Marbod bishop of Rennes / the literary type known as the lapid ary

formed a standard pan of the medieval encyclopedic tradition, emerging also as a popu lar

vernacular literary type generally available to the literate public from as earlyas the

eleventh cent ury onwards," WIth more than 616 lapidary text s exta nt,' it is clear that the

medieval fascination with sto nes was not a marginal elementofmedieval tho ught and

culture but ralher a significant part of culture and Icaming ofthc Middle Ages.' As an

artifactof a cultural and religious preoceapatiou, the medieval lapidary point s to a

widespread fascination with the vernacul ar culture ofthe day. As such, the text s pro vide a

unique o pport unity for stude nts ofthe Middle Ages giving a pan oramic window on the full

breadth of medieval piety, from popu lar vernacular religious beliefs and pract ices to the

deliberati ve thought of theojogians, scientific writersoftbe time, as well as the vernacular

piety ofthemasses

This social and cultural background within which the lapidary texts were given

birth, however, has not yet:been allowed to set the co ntext fro m which modern studies in

lapidary texts and traditions hasbeenapp roac hed . As such, recent studies in medieval

lapidary literature have 001 examinedthe texts to their IUD potential as to what they might

tell us abou t the character and functioning ofmedieval society and culture .

! EML, xi.

' Evans, ))

In recent scholarship, lapidari es have been studied thr ough a number of disciplinary

orientations. Theyha ve been examined as objects oftextual studies, for thcircontent as

folklore and superst ition, as source texts for early mineralogy as weU as examples of early

medicine ; they have beenstud ied to tra ce their tran smission ofthoughts from anc ient times

to present day, or as objec ts ofcu rios ity for the mod em twe nty-first centu ry on-loo ker

seeking to find vestiges of contemporary scientific learn ing in the pa ges o f history. These

modem studies in medi eval lapidary texts have fallen into thr ee bas ic streams of inquiry

Thesecan becharacterizedas stu dies in cultural folk lor e. studies in the history of magic,

and stud ies in the history and transmissi on ofmanusaipt evidence.

TIle fondoric treatment of stone-lorecanbetraced backto the tum of the century.

Two volumes stand ou t as landmarkstudies William Jones ' s PreC;CnlS Stooes : Their

Historyand My.fterl and ge molo gist Geo rge Frederick Kunz ' s 1'heCurious Lore of

Precious Stone.f' present a wea lth of ma teria l and research regar ding the cultural lore

surround ing gems and precious sto nes thr ou ghout history. Both presen t a co mprehensive

anthology ofhistorical accountsand materi als. but are limited in that they do not attempt a

systematic and con textu al study ofstone-lore. Jacob Gri mm in the third volumeofhis

Teutonic Mythology also presents a sha n treatment c f the subject. ' His treatment is

limited . however, by both the rarity ofnative verna cu lar Teuto nic material relati ng to

precious stones and his bel ief that "the miracu lous and medicinal po wer of precio us

1 (london : Rich.ard Ikml ey andSm , 1880; reprintDetroit Singing Tree Press, 1968).

' (Pbiladd phia .t 1..oDcb1: 1.8. Lippintdt Company, 19 13; fq) rlnt New YorIt: Dover Pubticatioos,


, JacobGrimm,Tntlonl c M}'fhoI ogy, volumethree, translal:ed fromthe Fourth Editionby James

Stew:n St311ybrass(New Yon: DoverPublicatXns. 1966). 1216-1222.

his studies in folklore, however, points out that such a division of cultural traditions into a

two- tiered model does "an extreme disservicev'" to the religious beliefs being studied and

in effect assigns them "an unofficial religious status.'>40 Primiano states that "what

scholars have referred to as 'o fficial religion' does not, in fact, exist." He continues

explaining that

The use of the term "official religion" as a pedagogical tool has helped

explain scholarly perspectives to the uninitiated, but remains an inadequate

explanation for the nature of "religion." While it may be possible to refer

to various components within a religious body as emically "official,"

meaning authoritative when used by empowered members within that

religious tradition, such a designation when used by scholars is limited by

the assumption that religion is synonymous with institutional or hierarchical

euthont y."

He argues instead that the "study of religious belief and believers should emphasize the

integrated ideas and practices of all individual s livingin human society?"and offers the

tenn "vernacular religion?" as a means of speaking of the "variety of manifestations and

perspectives found within past and present human religiosity.,,44 Vernacular religion, he

states, "is, by definition, religion as it is lived: as human beings encounter, understand,

W Leonard Nonnan Primiano, "Vernacular Religionand the Searchfor Method in Religious

Folklife," Western Folklore 54 (January, 1995): 38.

." Ibid. , 39. Carl von Sydow's refers to this as a "failure" 00. the part of investigators that "bas

been a heavy handicap to their work." Carl von Sydow, "Comparative Religion and Popular

Tradition," in Selected Papers 0/1 Folklore : PtJblished on the Occasion of his 7r1' Birthday

(Copoohagen: Rosenkildeand Baggar, 1943) 166-167. RobertRedfield's theory has beenwidely

criticized withinanthropological circles. See for example Peter Brown, The Cult ofthe Saints: Its

Rise and Function in latin Christia nity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), Wilham A.

Christian Jr., Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain (Princetoo: Princeton

University Press, 1981) and idem,Local Religion in Sixteenth Cenrury Spain (Princeton :

Princeton University Press, 1981). Instead, there is a preferenceto speak of a reciprocal

interpenetration betweenofficial and vernacular religious traditions. For an example of this, see

Carlo Ginzburg, Clu es, Myths. and the Historical Met hod (Baltimore:The Johns Hopkins

University Press,1989).

41 Primiano, 45

4t Ibid., 47

c lbid., 41.

play, in our families and in society" as peo ple live their daily lives acco rding to what one

has learn ed from what is heard and how faith is practiced in their conununity or culture"

and deliberative thinking "is the understanding of faith that emerges from a process of

carefully reflecting upo n embedded theological convictions ."so

Through an examination of represen tative lapidary texts and othe r relevant

material, both embedded and deliberativ e thought regard ing the mediev al bcliefin the

magical and medicinal powers of sto nes will be unfolded to sketc h a caricature of the

medieval cultur al beliefs and fascination with sto nes. Rather than approaching lapidary

texts as the prod ucts of a 'little tradition ' reflectin g an isolated comer of medieval society,

this study will show that the medieval fascination with stones was a wide-spread

phenomenon and that the corpus of lapidary texts provides a broad cross-sec tion view of

the wo rld of medieval piety and thought . This stud y will demo nstrate the value oflapidary

literature as a window through which the full scope ofthe socialand religious culture of

the Middle Ages can be studied

41 Laity,xvii

.. Howard W. Stene and James O. Duke, How to Think Theologically (Minneapolis: Fortress

Press, 1996), 13-16

)0 rbid.,1 6




John Riddl e, as noted in the previo us chapter, has counted a total of6l 6 1ap idary

manuscripts extant from the eleventh to fiftee nth centuries. I He writes that "so many

lapidari es were formulated, both by well- known authors and by anonymous on es, that

trea tises on stones becam e on e of the more pop ula r type s of medieval scientific

literature., ,2 Derived from Hellenisti c and Alexa ndrian sou rce s, classical lapidary

know ledge was received through Greek and Ara bic sources by Western Europe and the

Latin Church as a cultural science . While ther e was a "break in the chain of Weste rn

lapidar ies'?' fro m the seven th to the eleventh cent uries, beginning with the lapidary of

Marbod, the eleve nth century bishop of Rennes, there is an explosion of litera tur e dealin g

with the virtues ofston es

Scho lars have generally followed Joan Evans and George Sartori in their division

ofmediev al lapidary text s." E vans suggests a three-fold division of the manuscript corpus

The firstgroup is that of the Popular Medieval Lap idary. D erived most directl y from th e

eleve nth century lapidary ofMarbod, this group is by far the large st. The second division

is that ofthe ChristianSymbo lic lapidary derived from biblical commentarieson the

1 Seechapter one, note S. AlsoMarbode, ix; also Lnho :40

1 Lirhu, 44

s Evans , 31. ANL , xiii

4 The reader should note that Evans and Salton are respectively eighty and fifty years old and are

in need of being updated , In the absence of more recent references, however, they are still the best

standard surveys of manu script dat ing and transmission.

theo logical significance of stones The third group or tapdanes, which Evans identifies, is

the Scientific lapidary texts which reflect the specutanc ns of scho lastic philosophers on the

nature and virtu es ofstones. s Evans treats astrological lapidari es separ ately in a

subsequent chapter of her book." Sarton's division is similar to Evans ' s except that he

includes MaJbod ' slapidary in the corpu s of scientific text s, limiting the magical lapidaries

to those ofastrol ogical co ntent." Marbod' s text and its derivatives are included within

the group ofscientific lapidaries based on its medicinal content and usa ge." Evans 's

classification attempts to balance circu latio n with content wher eas Sarto n's classifica tion

focu ses more specifically on content. Evans' s division ofthe texts will be used for the

purpose ofthis study since it more closely reflect s the cultural reception ofthe mat erial

beginning with an overview of the classical sou rces of the Western medieval lapidary

traditi on

Classical Sour ces

Lapidary knowledge was not an invention ofthc later Middle Ages but was pieced

tog ether from material s inherited from classical sources. Lapidary tradi tions ofancient

' Riddle divides the corp us slight ly cbffenntly_ Hesuggesu;athree-fokIdivisiooofscicntific.

magical or astrological and Ch ridian lapida ry-texts . He includes Marbod ' s text withintherorpus

of scientificlapida ries based011itsmedicinal oriwtation. Th us in his estimatioo. both Hellenistic

and Alexandrian sources servo as tributaries for the scimtific perspccti'VCS 00 stooes. As be notes,

the magica l or astrological lapidary is attributedalsoto Alexandrian sources. SeeMarbode, ibi d

t Evans, chapter 5 .

' Riddle follows Sa rtoo 's divisioos of the man uscript corpus . SeeMarWe, xi; alsolJtho, 39-40 .

Robert Halleux and Jacques Schamp use a four-fold division of th e corpus of lapidary texts . They

usethe same basic categorical divis ions as Sartori but treat the hermeti c magical texts and the

asuologica l treatises separately . SeeLe ISLaptdaires GreCJ (Paris: Soc ifit6 O'Edrti on des Belles


- Sartoo sees the sc il.mific Iap)dari es as deri1lOO from those of1boophJastus and Diascorides; tho

astrological or magical lap idaries from A1ell.3IldriaDsources ; andthe Christian lapidaries as

mrabtttbus mtllldj .19 The original text dates from the third or fourth century AD. m It is a

reworking of Pliny's Natural History reflecting the same views as the latter." Like Pliny,

Solinus is skeptical of magical properties associated with stones. Magical properties of

stones are rarely recorded. Solinus is quo ted alongside Pliny in the later Middle Ages

Sarton writes that there are "many incunabula editions, the first being probably that of

Venice, 1473" and at least two undated editions which may beearlier. n

The third classical authority that Kitson identifies is the Etymologies of Isidore of

Seville (c. 560-(36).23 Written in Spain between 622 and 633,24the Etymologies is a

compendium of classical science drawn from the ancient and patristic authorities. " It

served as a model for later encyclopedias and its influence upon mediaeval thought was

very great.?" He adopts the perspective of Hellenism and lays little stress on magical

virtues." His discussion of stones in book XVI of his encyclopedia follows the skepticism

of' Ptiny." While he admits that stones might have some medicinalvalue. the order in

which he treats stones in relation to the rest of'his medical sections indicates that this value

is slight in hisestimation. Falling into the patristic period, and having been written by a

bishop of the Church, Isidore 's lapidary ensured the transmission of both Hellenistic

19 Sartonnotes that this name was likely givento it by a sixth century editor. See Sartori I: 34 1

l'I Evans, 17

I I King (p . 6) states that Solinu s is more precis e

n Salton I: 34 1. See aiso TIK index. 1296 Sofinus , Polihtstor

23Isidore of Seville, "Etymologiam m libri XX," PL 82:559-598

:l4Sarton I: 411.

2$ SartonI: 471

26 EML , xi. .

11 Evan s writesthat "Amiantos [iv. IS], it is true, is said to resist all poisoning, especiallyby

magicians, andsideritisto excitediscord;but in allother casesthe asseverations of the magi are

quoted with an incredulity worthyof Pliny. Jasper isheldby some to giveaid and protectionto its

wea rer:

scientific theories and lapidary lore into the later Middle Ages." The earliest printed

edition appeared in Augsburg in 1472 and another in Strasbourg c. 1473 .2" The entire text

of the Etymologies is available in a critical edition edited by W. M. Lindsay."

Parallel to the scientific lapidaries of antiquity flowed the stream of Christian

symbolic interpretations of the stones of Aaron's breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20), the nine

ornaments ofthe king ofTyre (Ezekiel 28:13), and the twelve stones in the foundation of

the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19_20).31 As Peter Kitson notes, this tradition of

biblical exegesis has been "largely neglected by lapidary historians.'032 While the early

Christian Church followed in the spirit of the Hellenistic writers and rejected the magical

use of stones," it proceeded also to expound on the moral, symbolic and mystical

significanceof the biblical stones." This tradition of allegorical interpretation is no less

important for the cultural significanceoflate medieval stone-lore as it laid the foundation

for the religious significance and use of stones in the later medieval Church

21EML, xi

n Sarton I: 471. Fororher manuscripts seeTIK index, 1829 Isidore a/Seville, ElymoloKiarnm.

JO Isidore of Seville, Istdari Htspalensts Episcopt, Etymologiarvm stve originv m: Ltbn XX, two

volumes (Oxford, 1911).

II Kitson notes that tbere is also "a small number of jewels... describedin works ofmore general

literary appeal. " Kitsoo,20. One examplewouldbe St. Hildefonse'sdescriptioo of the stones in

In Corona B. Virginis Martae , See PL 97: 287.

32 Kitson, 22.

JJ Evans IXJtesthat the early Church was "opposed to magic inall its fonns, condemned the

engraved talisman, but carried00 the tradition of the medicinal amulet." Evans, 29

34 This is comparable to the Augustinian henneneutical synthesis whichin additionto the literal

meaningof the Scriptural text added alsoallegorical(symbolic), tropological (moral ), and

anagogical (mystical) interpretations . See, for example, Karlfried Froehlich trans. & ed , Bib lical

Interpretation in the F-arly Church (Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1984), 28. Umberto Ecc notes

that the worldwas interpretedin the samemanne r as the Bible, "for the theory of Biblical exegesis

wasthoughtto be validalsofor nat ure." Umbcrto &0, Art and Beauty in the Middle Age.r,

translated by HughBredin(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 59

Mo re important in terms of a bro ad influence u pon the later medi eval cultu ral lore

of sto nes is the lapidary text ascribed to the figure of'Damigercn." The Greek original is

known only in fragments in the second book of the medical collectio ns ofAeti us. The

complete text , however, survives in a Lati n translation ascribed variou sly to the first or to

the fifth or sixth century." According to its opening letters and prologu e, it purports to

present the secr et Egyp tian science of stones. It is known in a 14 tlo century manuscript

which, Eva ns reports, was pr eserved in the Bib hotheque Netio nale de Fr ance [MS , La t

7418 , fol. 116- 23 V.], an ear lier text in the Bodleian Libr ary differs in some respects from

that of the Bibliothequ e Natio nale [Hatton MS, 76, fol. 131-9 J, and a thir d manu script

fro m the late twe lfth centu ry, whic h formerly belonging to 51.Augustine's in Canterbury,

but was, at the Ev ans's writing o f Magical Jewels, preserved in th e Bjblio th eque

Nationale [Nouv. Acq . Lat. 873, fol. 176- 189] Evans comments that with the excep tion

of a few corruptions, the text agrees wit h the Oxford rnenuscript." The lapidary of

Damigeron has been reco gnized to be the principal source for the later famous lapidary of

Marbod, bishop ofRennes . 60

6 1

Also worthy of mention is the Hermetic verse lapidary known as the Lilhica.

T his text which was first att ributed to Orp heus by Tzetzes lists over tw enty stones with a

}7 Halleuxand Schamp, 193-290 fur a copy of the Latin text and French translation withan

extensivetextual discussion. Sec also Robert Halleux,"Damigeron,Evaux IIIMarbod: Fheritage

aleundrin dans leslapidaries medievaux," Studi Medievati15 (1974): 327-347.

'" Evans, 20

S9Evans, 21. SeealsoANL, x.ii. Fora listing ofmanuscripts, seea lsoTIK index, 1782


j;Q RobertHalleux, Studi Medievali . See also Evans, 21.

01 See Halleux and Schamp, 1-123 for a printing of the Greek text with Frm m trans lation

Halleux and Schamp also provide an extensive textual discussion. An English translat ion may be

found in King, 375·398 . See also Alios Closs, "Die Steinbucher in kulturhistorischer Uberscheu,"

Grm Landesmuseum Joanneum Mincralogisches Millcilung sblalt 8 (1958): 8


within the ' pagan' myths an allegory of salvation .7;; Whet her the lapidary was actually

penned by him or not, however, is irrelevant since its br oad circulation illustrates the

extent to which it this supposedl y ' pagan' text rel1ected the cultural views of the Middle

Ages." Sarto n comments that the text was "immensely popular.':" The later popularity

of the text illustrates that the perspect ives contai ned in the lapidary were not considered to

beco ntrary to tho se of the later Christian cultur e. Studer and Ev ans note that "there are

near ly forty [manuscripts] in English public collectio ns alone and more than a hundred are

known in continental libranes.''" Out of the 616 lapidary manuscripts examined by John

Riddle, he notes that 125 ofthcm were Marbod's ." Given that it was published on the

eve of popular literacy, this makes de lapidibus a med ieval "best seHer.'''l

The text was likely compiled towards the end of the eleventh century." This poem

of732 hexameter lines, which trea ts 60 stones, is written in a flowing Latin.'" Riddle

notes that it is a "masterpiece of eleven th century scbolershlp.?" The lapidary was written

and circulated as a practical medicinal guide. Editions ofit are known throu ghout the

Mid dle Ages. The popu larity of the text is attested to in that Marbod came to beknow n

76 "The scholars of tbe eleventhcentury felt too profound a respect for the incomprdJens ible

learning of the ancients to venture to criticize their inforrnatiooorto revise their ccnc leskos.'

ANL ,xiv.

71 Ma rbode, 21.

11 SartooI: 764

1'> ANL, xiii

to Marbode, ix. Riddle citesthe number of 137 mss in Litho, 44. Sarton states there are more than

140 manuscripts (I: 765) . See also TIK index, 1858 Marbod, Lapidumfora listing of


Il Marbode, x

n Riddlesuggests a dateoflO9O . SooMarbode. 2 for a discussioo of the dating of the lapidary

I:l Maurice Delbouille," Un mysterieux ami de Marbode; Ie ' redoutable poete' Gautier," Le Moyen

Age 47 (1951) : 205·240

'i Marbode. 5.


Due to the wid e distribution and influence of' Marbod' s text. Evans has called it the

"lapidarypar excellence of the Middle Ages ..... Interest ingly, as Evans notes. "the

popu lar rhymed lapidary is absent from English mediaeval literatu re; ther e is no verse

trans latio n o f Marbode's wor k in Eng lisb excep t for a few stanzas by Abraham fl eming

quo ted by Scot in the sixteenth ce ntury . But a co nsiderable number of Engli sh

manu scripts ex ist of'la pidarics in Latin. French. and Eng lish. ofwhicb the majo rity show a

preponderat ing medical element.'''''' Sarton not es that the po pular lapid ary remained

entirely ' pag an' in its co ntent until the 13th centwy when elements oftbe Ch ristian

symbolic tradition merg ed wit h it for the first time ." The genre ofthe popular lapidary is

derived from Marbod 's text andwas a widd y circulat ed andread piece ofliterat ure in

from the 13" to 15" ce ntury

La pidari es also emer ged as a popular genr e o f scien tific literature." Where the

popular lapid ary followed a trad itional format as a med ical treatise. the new science ofthe

twelfth andfo llowing centuries sought to provide a systematic explanatio n of cos mic

phenomenaaccording to the metap hysical theories ofAri stotle . Thereintroduction of

Aristotle gave rise to the corpus ofmodem scientificwritings including what ca n be

consid ered the first mod em ' scienti fic' treatises o n miner alogy . Clo sely as socia ted are

includes an Evau x pro logue and a list of only two stones . Thai th e text likely containedthe entire

lapidary. however, is probable as Larsen sugge sts, because a fuller listingofstooes is given in

other related manuscripts (Trinity L-2-27), The miscellany dates to the 15 11I century . See Henning

LInen, An Old h.,landic Miscellany (Oslo: I Kornmisjoo Hoe Jacob Dybwad, 193 1), 1, 4, 44-4 5.

- Evans, 35.

'T7EY3II$, 69. She notes that Ibe frmch popu lar lapidary is almost afway1 an arti stic literary

creatiou ; the fn glish is almost iowriablo • plain and unadornedImltise ." Ibid ., 72.

'" SartooI: 164


symbolic text! are ascribedto Marbod 1) 0 'Theearl iest vernacular lapidaryknown to have

circulated in Europe is an Old English listing of the biblical ston es dating to the eleventh

cent ury. m Treatises on these 'canonical' stones came to circu late as an indepe ndent

literary unit. After Christ ian and popular lapidary traditions later merged. the canonical

stones continued to circulate as a single unit and are commonly found together at the head

ofthestone-list. U2

The merging of Christian and pagan element s was a gradual process. The two

initially circulated as independent genre . Lat in texts such as Marbod' s lesser lapidari es as

weD as the vernacular Old English LapidaryU3circu lated as independent moral ueatises

Over time, however , Christian and popu lar lapidary traditions started appeari ng alo ng side

one another within the same texts . At first, as in ms. Brussels 2834, medicinal comments

were given in a separ ate appendix to the moral trea tise. l34 Very popular was the 13th

century French Lopidaire Chri tien en w rs,m which Sarto n claims was the first to

combineboth Christianand populartrad itions .I). But in later lapidariessuch as Paris,

Bibl.Nat. de Frace , fro14964 , the desc ription of tra ditional virtues and the religiou s

\. Seetexts and traoslatims in Morbode. 119-129

III LaKkn, S L., CottooTiberius A. In inEML, 13-15.

UI c r. for eumpie, Volmar 'l lapidary in Lambe! .

In Loudon, B.L., CottooTibcrius A IIIin EML.

u' See Evans 74

m See Pann ier, 22 8-285. Cf. also Francoise Fery-Hue, "Une version ramaniee du Lapidoire

Chretien en W f$: LeManuscrit Paris, Bib!. Nat., Ncuv. Acq. Fr. 11678," Romanio 107 (19&6):

92· 103.

1M SartonI: 765. The author of the Lapidaire Ot ritim drew his information emthe 'magical'

virtuesof stooes largely fromMarbod and the Otristian symbolic meanings principany from Bede,

AJbertthe Great, Rabanus Maurus , the oommeotaries of Strabo, and poss ibly also the Book of

SyrJrac. SeeHoller,Momucripto. IU


exclusive ," but "in fact often overlap.'?" Such divisions serve the modern researcher

more than they reflect the medieval context which is far more fluid

While authors and influences within the lapidary texts may be identified, "hard ly

any two are alike."loU As Riddle notes, "Lapidaries were an ever-changing, popula r mode

of medieval medical and scientific expression"!" He further suggest s that this dynamic

character of the lap idary literature as a testimony to the vitality of a popular and general

cultural fascination with stones within the societ y of medieval Burope.P" Far from

representing a ' little tradition, ' the geographical and linguistic distribution ofl apidary texts

shows that the fascination with stones and their virtues was indeed 'popular' in that it

to uched every comer and strata of medieval civilization, From the Church to the abbey,

the university to the village, there is a lapidary text to suit the co ntext.

141 Marbode, xi. Cf "Some late medievallap idarists prefer to view knowledgeof stones as a

composite in atternptingto integrateknowledge." Lit lw, 40.

14 Ibid. 50


UO lbid., 50.

Tiberius asking for infonn atio n on the sec rets of stones and "w hat an expert thinks th ey

can do for mankind .' >3 Evaux obligingly passes on thi s ' secr et knowled ge ' ofthe

Egyptians rega rding sto nes and admonishes Tiberiu s to guar d th is information and never

re veal it. 9 The lure ofstones is presented as a forbidden fruit only cautiously revealed . As

Riddl e note s, "t he motifof the mystical Egy ptian secrets is sugge stive of a connection with

th e Hermetic lireraiure.v'" Thi s claim to secret knowledge with in Marbod's lapidary no

doubt co ntrib uted to its immen se po pularity . In the second letter, Evau x ackn ow ledg es

the receipt of Tiberi us 's gift ofthanks through the centurion Luciniu s Pronto." In

gr atitude, Evau x promise s to send further infonnation rega rding the origin and use of'the

variousstoncs. 12

The lette rs arc followed by a verse prol ogu e, which introduces the stone- list In it,

Mar bod recounts the co rres po ndence between Evaux and Tiberius and in good rheto rical

fashion "confesses misgiving s lest his publication ofthese mysterie s should lessen their

power by being made known too commonly.':" Then he comments that only a few ofhis

friends should rea d this text and expr esse s the wonder of what benefit there might be for

human ity if th e powers of these stones could beused in the art ofmedicine--for even

I "Dcside ranti tibi scribi a me misteria omnium lapidum quanta [quae?] generi huma ne ea sapieeti

prodesse videantur." II. 1-4. All references will be from the version printed in Marbode, 28. The

line numbers in Murbode correspond to that given in PL 17l : 1737-1 780

, "T u itaque custod i summa diligeotia misterium summ i altissimique Dei . Hoc enim misterium

ceteris Egiptiislitteratis . Neque allophilis tradideris aliisue [aliive] cuiquam ne ad sterilitatem

huiu s scientiaedeveoiatEgiptus" 11. 5-10 .

10 Marbode, 5.

11 " Magnifica tua dcea accepi per centuriooem Lucinium Frontooem nomine, quem dignatus es

mittere adme." 11.1-4.

12 " Et egotibi invicem misi {mitto] quodcunque carius per terram in orient is partib us de omnibus

lap idibus remodiorum Domenexistit." U.4-7.

13 Marbode, 5.


The descript ion ufthe ind ividu al sto nes follows a trad itional formula." Whe reas

"today a gem subst ance is classified by chemical analysis, by hardness, by specifi c gra vity,

by lustre , by co lor and by the refrac tio n oflight pass ing through it;,n the medieval

scientist look ed to a sto ne's char acter in o rde r to identify it, name ly its color, physical

prop ert ies and magico-medicinal virtues." As Riddle po ints out, "w e ask differe nt

qu estion tha n did medieval people ; co nsequ ently we get different ans wer s when studying

the same material, such as stones. Marbode's quest ion was a simple one: what is the

sto ne 's per sonalityT.30 What did it look like? Where did it co me from ? and how does it

act? or variously, what pow ers doe s it posses? The virtus ofa sto ne was equivalent to its

perso na lity , By identifyingits personality, o ne stone co uld be differenti ated from

another." Functionally the n, the lapidary entry can be divided into thr ee part s in which

the name ofthe stone is given, identifyin g charact eristics are listed , followed by a

descri ptio n of its particular virtues and how th ese are bes t used

The entry begins by identifying th e name of the sto ne. Thi s is usuall y presented in

its traditional Latin form which mayor may no t correspond to mod ern nomeoctature."

be found,the stone-lists could provide informationon the distributionof stonesand gems across

Western Europe. 1am unaware, however, of any study whicll.attempts to do this

lt Sce Marbode, 3

1;7This is noted by IanBishop whocommentsthat "medieval verse lapidaries tend to followa

traditional pattern andoften employ certain fixed formulas." See"Lapidary Formulas a Topics of

Invention-From Thomas of Hales to Henryson," Review of Engli!/h Studies n.s. 38 (1986): 469 .

21 Urban T. Holmes,"Mediaeval GemStones," Speculum9 (1934): 1%

19 Marbode, x.

lOIbid 6

31 BertHan sen summarizes this medieval approach by writing "to know what something is, what

virtue of power it has, is to explain it." Bert Hansen, "The Complementarity ofSciencc and Magic

before the Scientific Revolution,' American Scientist 74 (1986), 134

J2 For example, theancient sapphirus was likely lapis lazuli, and smaragduscould have beenany

number of greenstones, an not necessarily our modem 'emerald.' SeeMarbode, 41, 44. The

stones to which other medieval names refer have still not been identified. Seefor example, Urban

T. Holmes, "Old-French Estermmals,a Gem Stone," Speculum13 (1938): 78·79. Some scholars

Their power of stones was not limited to individual influence but extended also

into social contexts. Camelion was said to quench anger in quarrels and thus promote

peace and harmony between neighbors ." Calcedon io was said to grant success in law-

suits when worn around the neck or hand n Sapphire breaks a captives chains and opens

prison doors." Other stones such as silcnites could be used to attract love. Care must be

tak en, however, for its power waxed and waned with the changing ofthe moon." Others

could be used to stren gthen the bond of marital love and commitment." MUKflete was

seen as especiallypractical since in addition to attracting love it could also be used to test

a wife' s faithfulness,16 calmed marital disputes, and strengthens maritallove. n Gaga tes

could beused to test anot her 's virginity.n Not all stones, howeve r, possessed beneficial

power s. Onyce, for instance, wa s believed to incite quarrels" for which Marbod

11 This powerwas ascribedto camet ton (De laptd. §22). This particular virtue is likely an

extension of the stce e's power to stop a flowofblood. This pow-eris also ascribed to sapphire (§5

D. 120-122). Androdamma by virtue ofils warmness is said to calm friends (§48 II. 620-621)

12 "Calcedcn lapis est hebct:ipallcre fefulgeas, Inter iacinthum edoiximus atque berillurn; Qui si

pertusus digit colove geratur, Is qui portet eum prohibetur vincere causae." De lapid. §6 11. 129­

132. Similarty, chelidonichas the power to sustain business wbenworn on the lingeras weDas

calms the Icing's anger (§171 . 263·264)

'7JDe lapid. §5 II. 116-117

1-l "Lunares motus et menstrua tempera servat: Crescit enimluna crescente minorue minuta

Efficitur, tamquam coelestibus anxia dampnis ." De lapid. §2611.385-387. The London Lapidary

[Bod!., Douce 291] §2, EML, 19 suggests that the color of /opace changes with the changing of

the moon (cr. De /apid. §I3 1.211 wbich states "Quodque magis mirum, Iunam secure putatur")

n & rril is ascribed the power to bind married.couples in love. See De lapid. §12 I. 198.

7li "Nam qui scire cupit sua nurn sit adultera conjux, Suppositum capiti Iapidemstertmtis adaptet;

Max quae casta manit pi,tit ampIexura maritum, Non tantum evigilans, Cadit onulis adultera lecto,

Tanquam pulsa manu, subito fetore coacta, Quem lapis emittitcelati criminis index." De /apid.

§19U. 294-299.

17 "Conciliare pceese uxcrib us ipsemaritos, Et vice versa noptas revccare maritis ." De toptd §19


11 "Et solet, ut perhibent, deprehenderevirginitatem " De lapta §18 1.281

" "Multiplicat lites, tt commovet undique OOs ." De lapid. §9 I. 175 Bad dreams and general

sadness are also attributed to the influence of onyce .

portrayed as fosteri ng and strengthening the mor al virtu es it represents based on its

symbol ic significance. Similarly , the tent h stone on the breastplate-crisolide-

symbol izes bot h the Ten Conunandments and the miracles and prop hec ies ofChris t

Borne on the left side, crisolide both defend s against demo ns, gives a g ood name, and

fosters true and right eou s living.lOS Other mo re fantastical virt ues, suc h as the ability to

commun icate with the dead , are occasionally given as well. I06

Peu ple in th e Midd le Ages evidently believed that "stones can con trol almost any

aspect of the environ ment as we ll as most physical ailments as diagnosed"!" The

lapidary -knowledge po rtrayed within the tex ts can be summarized under two main po ints .

Th e first is tha t lapidary- know ledge was eminentl y practical . The lapidaries provid ed bo th

information for the physical iden tificat ion of the vari ous stones and the virtue s co nsistently

focu sed on w hat the sto ne was good for and how it was to be used, Th e lapidarist s d id

not concern themselves grea tly with matters of theoretical explanations.! " Secondly, the

modern categories of magic, science, and re ligion, com bined free ly within the texts

without apparent cont radiction, Both the Christ ian and the so-called ' pag an' virt ues

lOS«& as the boke seith , pat who pat blisful stooe beritbhe m ulde lyue trewly , & hit shulde be

born e vppon pcleRe side." London Lupidary [Bodl ., Douce 29 1} §10 Onic/es EML.26- 27


ascribed to the stones were taught to bedivinely given. 'Pagan' mythic account s and

virtues were interpreted allegorically for Christian redemptive reatities'?"

]09 Kitson, "Lapida ry traditions: part II,» S6.

On the Causes of Stones

Medieval science made use of Aristotle's theoryofcauses in order to explain

natural phenomena and objects. Objects were studied in terms of their material , efficient,

formal and final causes. Tbesame system was applied to the study of mineralogy.

Albert explains that the material cause of stones is in thepoWffof the element s ·

Thecosmos was taugh t to consist offive bas ic element s. Derived from HeUenistic science

and Aristo tle, the se were enumerated. as earth, wate r, air, fire, and the elusive

quintessence , These five element s were believed to be separat ed and stratified within the

cos mos by weigh t."

Minerals were believed to bea mixture of earth and water. Eart h by natu re was

co nsidered to be dryandheavy. It is because oft his earthe n essence that minerals sink in

water . Earth on its own, however, wou ld not be able to maintain I physical body but

revert back to dust . It requi res a "gluing together" of the earth'sdry particles provided

through the viscous property ef'water It is on account ofns mixture with water that the

dry earthen element is able to maintain its physical shape . Similarly water on its own

lacks the solidity needed to form a stone andrequires the action oflbe other elements

upon it to maintain its shape

Medieval science did not neglect to ask the question of bow minerals were form ed.

Man y theories as to the efficient ca use ofstones had been suggested throughout history

• ik mineral. l.i9. "[Tjhe powerofthc elemeotsis the material cause, and the power of the

heavens is the efficient cause, and the powerof the Mover is thejOrmal cause; and the result of all

these is the powe r that is pou red into the material ofstoo es andthe place where they are funned"

Wytkoff. 3S


A stone 's natural powers were believed to be a function ofits particular form and

not specifically its elementalcomposition_" Albert writes that "w e state , in agreement

with Constantine andsome others, that tbe power of stones is caused by the specific

substanti al form of' the stone . .. for everything has its own proper wor k, its own good ,

accordi ng to the specific form by which it is shaped and perfected in its natural being...34

This form exists as "so mething divine" which is manifest materially in individual objects."

While Alben states that form, "p urely in itself ... is a simple essence capable of only one

function," its POWel"S and activities are multiplied in relation to the heavenly powers

exerted in the movemem of the stan, andthe powers and properties of the indivKlual

elements Therefore , he explains that ''It will be product ive of many effects, even though

perha ps it has one function that is partiro1arly its own . .. And this is why nearly everything

is good not merely for one purpose,but for many, when its functions are und erstood "'''

Form in its specific material manifestation may, however, exhibit a grea ter or lesser

degr ee of power . "Among sto nes of the same specific form, some are found to be more

potent and some less potent in their effects ; and perhapssome are even found to lack

completely the effect [chara cteristic] of the specific form." AJbertexplains this as

resulting from disorder within the material of the particular stone which in turn ccsceres

the natural virtues inherent within it. ll The potencyofa stone 's virtues is also ascribedto

the vitality of its fonn Albertnotes, however, that a stone's form is ' mortal .' Over time,

)3 Albert argues this posit ion (WI the basis that th e elements haw only their prima l characteristics

and CYCD in com bination, coul d not acco unt for the speci fic virtues and powe rs which are

experienced and observed to be pre:5elltin gems and stones . l>t minerol. R,i.3. Wyckoff, 62-64 .

JO De miMrol. IlH . Wyckoff, 64-65

" Ibid. Wyc koff. 65.

lro Ibid. Wyckoff, 65-66

may be used to enhance the natural powers ot stones" Thus, "in consideri ng the craft of

making gems and metallic imag es in the likeness ofth e stars, the first teachers and

pro fessors of natural science recommended that the carving be done at duly observe d

limes, when the heavenly force is thou ght to influence the imag e most strongly , as for

instance when many heavenly powers combine in it.,,41 In engraving gems, care ful

attention needs to be paid both to the heavens and the quality ofthe image engraved

Albert lists five integral elements in the engraver ' s art. The first is the starless sphere

through which motion and life is imparted to the heavens and the earth . The seco nd is the

influence ofthe constellations. Thirdly, thc position of the planets within the Zodia cal

Signs is also impo rtant in etching the power of the heavens in the stone . Fourthl y, the

elevation and elongation of the planets and constellations within the night sky is important.

Lastly, the engraver must be aware of the latitude of his own geographical position in

relation to the first four points. Albert explains

the last must be carefully observed since from this and the preceding [arise]

the variations in the size ofthe angle at which the rays strike the figur e of

anything produ ced by nature or by art. And it is in accordance with the size

of this angle that the powers of heaven are poured into things."

Thro ugh the images engra ved, celestial rays could be impressed into the stone to be used

for medicinal purp oses. The stone would thu s be the receptacle and bearer of the celestial

radiation accord ing to its engra ving . But just as the natural pow ers of stones endure only

for a certa in time, so it is also with those prod uced through the engr aver's art

47 "Therefore we must cccctude that if a figure is invressed upon matter either by nature or by art,

[with due regard to] the configuration ofbeaven., someforceof that coofiguratiofl is poured intothe

work of nature or of art." De mineral. Hj ii.3. Wyckoff, 135.

'" 'bid

49lbid. Wyckoff,137.

contact." This undoubtedly wou ld have been the means by which one stone could

counteract the malcffects of anot her. Through sensual interaction with the stone, the

bearer would be influenced according to its particular virtue.

TIle ques tion of the extent and influence ofthe powers of stones did also arise as a

part of the medieval debate regar ding namralia and conungenna. Was the power and

virtue of a stone entirely irresistible or could an individual overcome the power and

influence ofstones? Within the dogmatic con text of medieval science. the influence of the

stone's virtue was limited to action on the physical body leaving the mind and human will

essentially free. The freedo m of the hum an will as an express ion of the imago dei was a

cardinal doctrin e und erlying both theo logy and science . Albert notes tha i "in man there is

a two-fold principle ofnature, namely natu re and will. And nature is co ntro lled by the

stars; but the will is free. But unless it resists, the will is draw n along by nature and

becomes less fleXibl e (inJuratur); and when nature is moved by the motion of the stars,

then the will also begins to be influenced by the motions and configuration ofthe stars? "

An individual was not thus bo und to the influence of the stones any mor e than that ofthe

stars. but could indeed resist them-difficult as it may be at times. The psycho logical

12 Urban T . Holmes Ill describes this medieval theory of sense perception as follows: "Sight

consisted of the spirit traveling fromthe brain, downthe optic nerve , out through the eyeballand

mocting the spirit of the objectseen. There the spirits commingled and colors and shapes were

transferred to the spirit from the eye. which was carried back to the brain for reflection," A

Htstory ofChrist ian Spirituality: An Analyttcal lntroduonon (New York: Seab ury Press, 1980),

57·58. Cf. also William Holler's description wherehe explains that "the moist ure of theeyes

draws th e imageinto them and renders it to the brain, which in tum communicates it to the heart

(i.e , memory or intelligence). The ideaof knowinga thing by heart, of course, has its origin in this

ancient and medieva l coocept of mcmory " See William M . Ho ller, "Ibe Ord inary Man's Concept

of Nature as Reflected inthe Thirteeeth-Ceerury Frooch Book ofSydrac." The French &view 48:3

(1975),528, For a detailed discussion ofmedieval theories of sensation and perception, see Simoo

Kemp,Medieval Psy



A second area of deliberative thought regarding the virtues and powers of stones is

that cf'theolcgical reflection. From our contemporary vantage point, this combination of

lapidary-lore and theology may seem entirely out of place, yet within the mindset oft he

Middle Ages, a study of the theology of the virtues and powers inherent in stones

presented no intellectual conflict whatsoever. We live in a society that maintains a

comfortable distinction between what is considered to be science on the one hand and

religion on the other. Lynn Thorndike reflects this modern perspective in his comment

that "science serves religion ... but religion for its part does not hesitate to accept

science."! The distinction between science and theology, however, is modem and does

not reflect the medieval mentality.j Don Cupitt more adequately reflects the medieval

world-view stating that while medieval science studied the mechanics of nature, theology

provided the context.' This is clearly seen to be true in the medieval theological

reflections regarding the divine nature of the virtues of stones.

I HMES II: 132.

1 Theologians and scientists wereoften mutuallyquctedas authoritative sources in each other 's

documents . See also Who, 42-44.

J "Mechanisticsciencewas allowedto explainthe structure and W

stated so plainly that for one to think otherwise wou ld be considered as a betrayal ofboth

common sense and divine pro vidence . This belief was taken up by the scholastic and

explained within the framework of the newly recovered Aristotelian metaphysic.

Acco rding to Aristotelian thinking, God was co nceived ofboth as the ground of all

being as we ll as the prime Mover from whom all things are animated. 9 God was thus

understood to bethe sou rce for both the form and vitality or ' virtue' of every created

object." Albert Magnus explains that the virtu e ofa ston e is as a function of its specific

form and thu s derivative fro m God. 11 Thom as Aquinas likewise notes that the fo rmal

cause of all objects is a reflection of the divine substance ofGod. l2 Thus the propensity

for and distribution of the specific virtues ofthe various sto nes was understood as being

divine in origin- as was indeed the entire creatio n--prescnt as vestigia dei .1> According

man, der sidi keret dar an und weiz dcch daz ez istge logen: er hat sichselbe bctrogen." Volmar,

Daz Sleinbuuch, II. 18·22 in Lambel, 3.

• "Manifestum est autem quod, sicut motus crnnes corporales redununtur in motum ccelestis

corporis sicut in primum mavens corporale, ita omnes motus tam corporales quam spirituales

reducuntur in primummovenssimpliciter. quod est Deus. El:ideo quantumcwnque natura aliqua

corporalis vel spiritualis pcnatur perfecta, noo potcst in suum actum procederenisi moveatur a

000 ; qusequidcm motio est socundum sureproviderrtirerancoem, non secundum necessitatem

natuflll.sicutmctiocorporiscce\estis." Summa t aze . 109. I

10 This wasdeveloped as withinthe doctrine of exemplarism whichta ught that God is the exemplar

orprotctype of all created things - and whenproperly understood, creation lead oee tc a

contemplatiooof God

" Albertus Magnus, De mineral. 1I.i.3-4. Wyckoff, 62-65.

u '

Thus while God may have his favo urite stones as mentioned in the Biblical text , His

influence and virtue wa s not limited to them or to virtues which we wou ld consider

specifical ly 'theological'" in nature. This is easily seenwith the frequent assertion that the

power of sto nes is ofdivine origin scatte red throughout the various lapidaries, as in the

case of Daumounde in the London, II/ North Midland,211 and Peterborough" lapidaries.

The divine character oflapidary virtues spills out of its familiar territory into day-to-day

concerns ofhealth and daily living

lius Christ the Cor m.. 'f stone

As noted by Albert Magn us, the virtues of stones co uld vary by degrees accor ding

to the 'mortality' ofthe form and the specific composition and mixture of the material

substan ce ofthe stone. ll This observat ion was further interp reted within the Christian

though t ofthe Midd le Ages . The clearest exposition is that of Thomas of Can timpre . He

notes that stones too suffer fro m the effects of original sin. Prior to Adam 's tra nsgress ion

the cosmos was characterized by a balance ofthe elements and humors . Through Adam 's

transgression, howe ver, this original balance was disrup ted which resulted in the tyranny

of the passions within humanity as well as suffering and struggle of illness and disease

within the world. Just as the natu ral virtues ofhumanity are obscured thro ugh the effect s

ofsin, argues Thomas , so too , the virtues and powers of sto nes are obscur ed . But just as

God has provi ded a means ofhealing for humanity through the sacraments ofthe Church ,

through which they influenced and gove rned the world below in obed ience to their Creato r. HMES

0 :322-23

II Thatis.'theology' in the modem understandin g of the discip line

•• §17, [Bodl. , Douce 29 1] EML, 30

20 §17, [Bodl" Add. A 106J EM!.,. 50

I I §59, [Peterborough, Cathedral 33] EML, 83.

splendid of gemstones " upo n whom the heavenly Father poured out "His unique and only

wor d" and through whom also the world was made. She holds the Virgin Mary in

contrast to the matriarch Eve through whose disobedience "the primal matter of the

wor ld" was "[thrown] into confusion." She commen ts further that humanity was created

in the image of the Wor d - namely Mary' s Son Jesus COOst Ther efore, Hildegard sings

that Mary is the "bri ght matter" thro ugh which the Word breathed forth again all the

virtues in posse ssion of which the primal and uncorrup ted creat ion was made. Mary is

presented as the 'ge mstone ' that contains and communica tes the virtue and power of'Jesus

Christ to the wo rld

Aside from the obvio us difference that Mary rath er than Jesus is identified with

stones, the Christologic al implications of Hildcgard's antiphon are fascinating . While

Hildegard does not directly equa te Jesus Christ with gemstones, she does equate Him with

the virtues inhering within them. And furthe r, while Mary may bethe formal cause of the

world's recapitu latio n, Jesus Christ is specifically identified as the efficient cause operant

through her. By analogy, Hildegar d suggests that while stones may possess virtue bytheir

formal principle, the actual working of the virtue of particular stones belongs to Jesus

Christ - the Word - inheringand wo rking within them as their efficient cause

The implications of Hildegard 's teaching in this antiphon are quite profound for the

understanding of medieval stone-lore in relation to the sacramental theo logy of the

medieval Churc h. The close parallel between accepted definition of a sacrament given by

Augustine as "vi sible Wor d,.33 and Hildegard 's concep tion of the virtue of stones as

(penguin Books, 2(0 1), 117. Atherton notesthat "Adamof St. Victor uses the same image of the

gemin a sequencefor Christmas." Ibid., 223 note 5.

lJ Augustine of Hippo, Tracun es onJohn 80. 3. PL 35:1840. Cf. SUffltnQ 3a. 60, I .


eligious concern and taken up by the religious communities." The question can thus be

raised as to the relationship between natural virtue--particularly as it relates to stones-

and divine grace

As noted, the virtue of stones is ofdivine origin on account both of their material

creation, formal, and efficientcauses, One can ask whether lapidary virtues could have

beenconsidered of the same species as divine grace . According to Aquinas, grace is the

action of God to restore humani ty to himself. It is borne of God 's mercy and wo rks

towards the restoration ofthe divine image and likeness within humanity . Image is

understood in terms of the formal principle ofhumanity whereas likeness is defined in

terms ofeffectuality of that image . Thus the grace of God may be divided into two

different specie s. The first is a forming grace through which the imago de; is restored

within humanity . Forming grace is various ly known and translated as a sanctifying grace .

Acco rding to Aquinas, sanctifying grace is communicated to humanity in the sacramen ts--

particularl y in baptis m in which God 's own character is impressed upon the individuaL '"

The second species ofgrace ofwhich Aquinas speaks he calls a freely best owed

grace that reflect s the active dimension ofGod 's existence. Freely bestowed grace

enlightens the mind of an individual to act in ways beneficial to anoth er. Moreover, it is

that which enables humanity to exceed the bounds of natural capacity . It is through freely

OJ Benedict.prescribed the care for the sick as one of the mainduties of the monastic community.

See Timothy P. Daalman "The Medical World of Hildegard of Bingen," American Benedtcnne

Review 44:3 (1993), 280

...Summa 3a.63, I. The rite of blessing for stones as recorded by Thomas of Cantimpre clearly

states that stones could also be objects of sanctifying grace. His consecration rite aspires to a

sanctificationor restoration of the stcee's form in order that itsefficacy might be restored. Even

though Aquinas would not admit stoces as media for sanctifYinggrace. The question can still be

asked, however. that if stones can be objects of a 'sanctifYing grace,' what would prevent them

fromcommunicating it to others?


estowed grace that the human intellect is activate d and enabled to understand bot h

natural and divine mailers and subsequ entl y apply them for the benefit of others."

Aquinas includes the graces ofheaiing, prop hecy and discernm ent of spirits, all ofwhich

qualities are seen to be active in the virtues orstonc s." The final caus e of freely bestowed

grace is that "peo ple are mad e more responsive to fait h by bestowal of bodily health

obtained by virtue offaith, ,.I7 While Aquinas is speak ing specifically of virtues endowed

to individuals by means of faith, the same virtues are seen in the lapidaries as ascri bed to

the power and wor king of sto nes

The virtues of sto nes were also directed toward the moral forma tion of

humanity-a goal commonJy shared with medicine and the stud y of' the natural scie nces.

Marbod, for examp le, praises the virtues of stones for the benefit that they might offer

humanity" - a refrai n that is often repeated throughout the vernacular lapidary texrs"

Particularly in the later Christian lapidarie s, the claim that stones are able to exert a

formativ e influence on the morality and character ofthe individual needs to be taken into

consideration, Whereas the distinction between sanctifying and freely bestow ed grace may

4:lSumma la2!1l. 109, 1

e clear-c ut in Aquinas 's thought , it is not so clear which species of grace the lapidaries

themselves claim the stones to communicate. The London lapidary makes the claim

regarding laspe s that "w ho-so bereth hit he shallede clenc life;" that it is good against the

temptati on s of "fendes, ofJ ewes, & sarazin s;" that it signifies the cardinal virtues of faith,

hope, and love; and that anyone who sees green Iaspes during the day will have their mind

drawn back to faith in Jesus Christ-so According to the lapidar ies, some stones were

believed to exe rt an influence upon the moral character of the individua l and could thu s be

unders too d to have a ' sanctifying' effect upon him in a manner similar to the Church-

sanctioned 'sacraments.' Mention could also be made of the contemplative and theological

virtues that were ascribed to individual sto nes within the lapidary literature

Furth ermo re, in a manner parallel to the sacraments, the significance of stone s was

closely tied also to salvation history." In discu ssing the nature ofthe sacraments, the

Blackfriar editor ofAquinas 's Summa write s that "sacraments are not merely signs but

symbols, and as suc h they hear not one, hut sever al meanings, They signify the past event

of Christ ' s Passion as the efficient cause ofthe grace which actual ly inform s and is

cont ained in them (their fonnal cause), and which is aimed at bringing man to final

beatitude (their final cause) .'.51 Interestingly, the virtue ofstones (efficient ca use) flowed

in the same way from its symbolic significance tied to even ts in the history of salvation"

se§6, (Bodl ., Douce 291 ] in EML, 23-24.

jj Th is parallels th e medieval fascination withth e events of the life of O1rist tied closely to th e

pilgrima ge sites of the Holy Land, reflected also in the development of'th e "way of'the cross " as a

substitution ary devotional rite of pilgrima ge for those who were not able to forsake family to

retrace the footstep s of Christ in imitation on tis Passion

":.lSlImnw vol 56 pp. In-H notea. Cf. ComeliusEmsl, " Acts of 01 rist: Signs of Faith," in

Sacraments. Papers of theMaynooth Union SummerSchool, edited by D. O 'Caliaghan (Dublin,

1964), 56-75.

SJ Or, to mythical origin s, in the case of the non-eaoooical stcecs

fou ndatio n to the heavenly city of Jerusalem for "w hosoever abounds in these (virtu es]

will be able to be a fellow citiz en.'?" In th is poe m, Jasper represent s the gr eenness offaith

which resists the devil ; Sapphire, the heart s of simple men waitin g with hope ; Chalcedony

wh ich is the image offire , repr esent s charitable service done in sec ret ; Emera ld, the purest

faith which know s never to forsake true piety ; Sardonyx discloses the inner man - its black

representing th e baseness offallen hum an natur e, white symbolizing chast ity, and red

reflecting martyrdom whic h is the crown of integrity; Sard represents the martyrs and also

th e mystery of the cross; Chrysolite reflects the ways of men ofperfect wisdom and is also

th e light of seven-fold grace;" Beryl symboliz ed the prayer ofthose whose minds are

sagacio us by nature; To paz shows th e stead fast duty of the co ntemplative life;

Chrysophrasreflects unity and perfect charity; Jacinth signifies the angelic life endowed

wit h the capacity for discernment; and lastly Amet hyst , which rep rese nts the lo wly who

die wit h Christ. l>

and John the Bapti st preached to the people;" tile purpl e robes in which Jesus was clothed

at His dea th, the scornin g of the Jewish people, the lordship of angel s, and the death of

martyrs;" the savour (saltiness) ofthose who live wisely on eertb," the prophecies and

miracles ofJesu s Christ , the virtue of preaching in the Chur ch, the gift ofthe Holy Spi rit,

and the ten Commandments as a divine rule for living;74the blackness of sin, the weakness

ofhuman flesh on accou nt of it, and the charity of God through Jesus Christ ;7Sthe first

preachers ofthe holy Church that preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the twel ve

Apostles, and the holy age of the resurrection) ," the joy of the second coming, and a

remembrance orthose in trevan," remembrance of and presumabl y also respect for those

good men that lead sinful people to lives ofgo od works;" and a remem brance of those

who suffer great pains in their bodies and despise their sinful fleshout of a love for God .7'l

The only item offaith obviously missing from this list is a reference to the ecclesial

sacraments, but giventhe widespread beliefin the ' sac ramental' quality to all ofcreation,

?I> §1 Ligu re.

71 §8Accate

71§9 Amatist

7lCf. Matthew 5:13

74 §10 Cn soltde Cns ottde presents a unique exception to the rule. The Ten Commandments are

signified, not because of a biblical precedent. but because Cn soltde is the tenth stone listed in the

canon ical stone-list

" §1I Onicle s

16 §12 Berttt is usedto signif)rtbe age of the resurrecooo because it is listed as the eighth stone in

the foundationof the heavenlyCity of Jerusalem. While God created the world in seven days, the

early Christians awaited the 'eighth day,' which was considered also to be the first day of eternit y

Becauseof its location in the foundation of Jerusalem, Bertli was understoodto signify this 'eighth

day' ofeternity

71 §14 Cn sop has.

71 §15Colcedoyne.

79 §16 Sordoynes . This wouldtmdoubtedlyhave includednot only martyrs, the 'saints' of the

crusades, but also those livingin monastic habit.

contemplation ofGod Himselr 91 Building on the Pseudo-Dionysian concept ofthe divine

hierarchies, Bonaventure exp lains that creation itselftakes on a symbolic and even a

sacramental character." As M ,D . Chenu comments regarding th is understanding from the

Middle Ages that "ev en before men contemp late it, the sacramental un iverse is filled with

God .',93 While thi s approach to creation is certainly characteristic ofFranciscanpiety,"

'I Coomaraswamy desc ribes this medieval way of seeing the world wr iting "His reasonin g is by

analogy, or in othe r words , by means ofan 'adequate symbolism' As a person rather than an

animal, he knows immorta l through mortal things ." Ananda K . Coomaraswamy, "TIle Christian

and Oriental , or True , Philosop hy of Art. " in Christian & Orienta l Philo sophy of Art (New York :

Dover Publications, 1956) , 55 note 23 .

9Z "The creatures of the sense world signify the invisible attribute s of God , partly beca use God is

the origin, exemplar and end ofevery creature , and every effect istbe sign ofils cause , the

exemplification ofits exempla r and the path to the cod, to which it leads : partl y by thei r own

proper representation , partly from prophetic prefigu ration, partly from angelic operation , partl y

from additional institution . for every creatur e is by its natu re a kind of effigy and likeness of the

eternal Wisdom, but especiallyate which in the book of Scripture has hem elevated through the

spirit ofpropbecy to prefigure spiritua l things ; and more espec ially, those creatures in whose

likeness God wished to appear through the ministry of angels ; and most especially , a creature

which God willed to institute as a symbo l and which has the character not only of a sign in the

general sense but also ofa sacrameet." Bceave-ture, §2:12, pp. 16-77. h should be notedtbattbe

ascription of 'sacra menta l" qualities to stcoes is divided alcag Pseudo-Dionysian lines. Whereas

Aquinas defines a Sacrament kataphatically - in terms of the grace that it commun icates ­

Bonaventure uses a 'contemp lative' or anagogica l definition in relation to the ascent of tile soul

towardGod. "Th e Cistercian spirit ofsimplicity is engraved to this day on the very stones ..

Beauty and simplicity preservethe spirit from distraction and leadit to God. Beauty leads to

contemplation and is a sort ofsacramoot of the eternal beaut y of God ." Andre Louf The

Cisterc ian Way , trans . Nivard Kinsella (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1989), 57. Also,

"[Francis of Assisi) embraced creatioo , beJieving that Goddid nol:abandon it, but that creation

reflects the glory of God. This attitude to creatures took theologica l form in St. Bonaventure's

doctrine of exemplarism, accordin g to which all creation is seen as God 's sacrament. " f elix M

Podimanam , Sp in'hlOlity and Spiritual ities (Delhi : Media Hou se, 2001), 134

9J M ,D. CherlU, Nature , Man, and Society In the Twefjlh Ceraury, Translated by Jerome Taylor

and Lester K. Little (Toronto : UniversityofTorooto Press, 1997), 35 .

94 David L. Jeffry describesthe sensory characte r of the Franciscan approach to the contemplat ion

of natur e in "Fran ciscan Spirit uality and the GrowthofVemacular Cu lture,' in By Things Seen'

Ref erence and Recogn ition in Medieval Thought, edited by David L. Jeffre y. (Ottawa : University

of Ottawa Press. 1979), 149-50


that which is not perceptible, a stepping stone on the road to Heave n.':" The light of

divinity communicated through material objects enlightened the mind of the beholder,

lifting them from the slime of the material world into a heav enly trance as de scribed by the

famous Sugc..., Abbot ofthe monastery ofSt. Derus. He recounts his experience as

follow s

Thus, when-out ofmy delight in the beauty of th e house of God.--the loveliness of

the many -colored gems hascalled me away from external cares, and worthy

medita tion has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which

is immaterial, on the diversit y ofthe sacred virtues : then it seems to me that I see

myselfdwelling, as it were, in some strange region ofthe universe which neither

exists entirely in the slime of th e earth nor entirely in the purit y of Heaven; and that,

by the gr ace of God , I can be transported from thi s inferior to that highe r w orld in an

anagogi cal manne r....,

Panofsky note s that Suger "describes this state, not as a psychological but as a religious

experience," and that his language her e echoes that of the Franciscan John the Scott.'?'

Though it is true that the contemplative dimension of nature andart falls properly under

the scope of medieval aesthetics and cosmology, both are tied to the doctrine of

exemptansm.rot It is within this conceptual framework that Seger' s emphasis on the role

of g ems, precious metals and stones finds place.!" Not to detract from the importance of

the altar and sacred vessels and relic s, the gem s were used to adorn the sacred furnishin gs

9J Panofsky, 20. Suger's contemplative approach to stonesis captured by Peter Kitson 's comments

about the Veeerabte Bedewhere he comments: "Where the Lapidary glossator was cceteet to

regard jewe ls as shining in themselves, Bedewas concerned that his readers should see them as

reflecting tile glory of God." Peter Kitsoo , ''Lapidarytraditions in Anglo-Saxon England: part II,

Bede's ExplanatioApooatypsts and related works," Anglo-SaxonEngland 12 (1983), 100

09 SugcrofSt. Denis, De odmtmnra ttone, XXXlll in Panofsky , 63-65 .

100 Panofsky, 21 .

101 "Beauty eed simplicitypreservethe spirit from distraction and lead it to God. Beauty leads to

COllletnplatioo and is a sort of saorarnent of the eternal beauty of God." Louf, loc. cit.

102 vauchez notes that, "in the field of art , such a concept of the relationship between the hwnan

and tile divine ledto tile proliferation inside churches of objectsmade of silver and gold or adorned





Rosalindand Christopher Brooke write that the deliberativethought presented

within the literature of any time period is limited in what it tells us about the actual

religiosityof the common folk.

Ifwe were to put all the books which were written in the 12" century into a

single library, we should find that a great preponderance represented the

studies and the interest and outlook of the learned: that they have far more to

tell us about the devout meditations of monks and the scholarship of the

schools and incipient universitiesthan about the thoughts of ordinary folk. I

The lives of people are not lived in ink on quarto and octavo pages, even if that ink was

placed there by them? Andre Vauchez offers the same point when he writes that "t he

history of spirituality cannot berestricted to an inventory and analysis of the works which

register the inner experience of monks." ve uchce, however, comments further, noting

that "next to the explicit spiritualityof clerics and religious formulated in writing, there is,

in our opinion. another [spirituality)"which has left its traces in the texts as well as other

material artifacts.'

I RosalindBrooke andChristopher Brooke, Popular Religion in the Middle Ages: Western

Europe I(j()()..J300 (Thames andHudson, 1984).61 .

1 Karen Jelly notes that "popular religion .. . functioned mostly through oral traasmissicn and thus

is largely lostto us except where fonnal religionrecorded its practices and beliefs." Karen Louise

Jolly. Popular Religion in Late Saxon England (ChapelHill: The University of North Carolina

Press. 1996), 22.

3SpM W• 8

childreering," four stones were listed as being useful in martial concerns," three stones

were listed having virtues for domestic matters," another three were listed for curiosity's

sake," two stones each po ssessed virtues which were functional in nature," financial,37

and relating to poiso n,'! and one stone was listed with virtues relating to pro tection from

demons ?" The other Middle English lapidaries demon strate a similar distribution of

virtues" emphasizing prag matic day-to-day concerns with health and general well being

Aspires speeds the cooling of boiled water when the stone is placed therein; §28 A raconlalides and

§32 Hyem e were believed to confer powers of divinatiUl

1l §6, 17, 18, 20, 25, 30.

33§12, 17, 18,21

3l §20 leercould be used to drive serpents awa y, and §33, 36

33§26, 29, 34 Onidros which is described as having the ability to displa y a rainbow when held

against the sun

;Ii §5 Saftre which is claimed to keep a manfrom prison, or if one finds himselfimprisooed, it helps

him to escape and § IOCrtsohde which would ensure its wearer freedom in the cross ing of borders


31 §6, 8

'''' §10

.. Of the North M idla nd Lap idary's thirty six stones, twenty-one relate to health (§I, 2, 4.-8, 12,

13,1 6-19,22,24-26,28,29,32,34). thirteen tosocialissues (§4,7,8,lI, 12,13, 15, 17,18,23,

26, 30, 34), ten to theological matters (§3-9, 11-13), nine to character formation (§I, 3,9, 14, 16,

22,27,28,34). persona l defense (§1, 3. 5, 8, 9, 20, 21, 24, 25), and IIJOral formation (§3, 5, 7, 10.

12, 13, 25-27), five to childbirth (§6, 17, 23,29, 34), four to marital concerns (§12, 20, 19,23),

and domestic matters (§13, 21, 25. 27 & JWtyfwhich keeps vermin from fruit),lhree list virtues

that are ftmctional (§5, 20, 31), and fantastic (§II, 13,26), two are listed for curiosity's value (§2,

33), two for financial matters (§3 , I I), and one formatters of poison (§26). The Ash moie lap idary

[Bodl., Ashmole 1441] lists six stones of which three are listed with fantastic virtues (§l grants

invisibility; §2 grants the ability to tell the future; and §4 when placed underthe tongue and then

touched to one's heart , grants the bea rer his wish), two relating to character format ion (§5

Ateaonovs & 6 Caldonton make one kind), two to function matters (§3 Thophastn ; when placed

in boiling water, allows one to reach into the water without geuing burned ; §6 Caledon ian grants

safe travel), and one for health matters (§6 aga inst fevers), Of the 145 stones listed inthe

Peterborough Lapidary [Peterborou gh, Cathedral 33], foItyeight relate to health (§5, 8·10, 12,

14, 15, 19, 25, 26, 40, 41, 45, 50, 52-54, 56 64-66, 68, 69, 72, 75, 78, 80. 82, 83, 86, 93, 104,

107-109, Ill, H 3-1I 5, 119, 122, 123, 125, 128, 130, 133, 135, 136), thirty three are listed for

curiosity sake (§I , 3, II , 13, 21·23, 28, 29, 34-38,5 1, 58, 62. 67. 74,87,88, 91, 92. 98, 101,

103, 120, 121, 126, 138, 142, 145), twenty-nine relate to social concerns (§2, 4. 6, 8, 24, 25, 30,

32,33, 39, 40, 41, 44, 47, 50, 56, 68, 69. 76, 81, 85, 93, 96, 108, 109, 117. 122, 132, 141),

tweety -five may be applied to matters ofpersooal defense (§2, 15,20,27, 42, 45,53, 55,5 6.59,

68, 69,79, 83, 97, 108, 110, 112, 118, 124, 129, 131, 132, 135, 137). tweery-ce e are useful for

matters in childbirth andchildrearing (§4, 8, 39, 46, 49, 50, 56, 59, 70, 73, 76, 83, 86, 90


In similar manner, the German lapidary of St. Florian, which claims to be a Chri stian

lapidary, lists only two stones with specifical ly theological virtues." Within this lapidary ,

the canon ical sto nes ar e listed for primaril y non -theological applicati on s while notin g

no netheless tha t these virt ues ar e God-given as is illust rated in the rite for the blessing of

Macedone prevents a pregnant woman fromgiving birth , §93, 124, 134 Orides and §137 Orne r

prevent conception or cause a woman to loose/deliver the ch ild early, §139 Piante and §140

Prassto are both listed as helping withchildbirth as well as guarding both father and nrther

against par enta l wrath , § 144), fourteen can be used for-cha racter formation (§8, 15.25,32,42,47,

70,79.94, 108, 110, Ill, 116 Sardonix which puts away lechery and makes a man meek and

chaste , §134), twe lve are listed with virtues th at are fantastic in nature (§18 , 51, 61, 64 , 68, 82,

84,89,94,99,109, 135), elevenpossess mora l virtues (§6, 15, 32, 39.68,93, 104 , 108. Ill,

113. 143), eleven stones have virtu e against poison (§7, 70. 79, 93, 102, 105, 108, 112, 123, 131,

134), nine have functional virtues (§31, 39, §63 Dtspar ea and §106 l..u[lGrie as well as §127

Lontuce rius possess virtues relatingro success inhunt ing, §94, 100, 107, 108), eight list virtues

that relate to domestic concerns (§20 , 41, 46, 53, 7 1, 83, 86, 102), SeY

stones, which closes the manoscnpt." The same emphasis is seen in the lapid aries of

Hildegard of Bingen,4 ) Albert Magnus," Thomas of Cantimpre," Arnold of'Saxony," and

Vincent of'Beauvais" The foci of concer n illustrated in the lapidary texts demonstr ate

that vernacular piety was clearly oriented more toward a maintenance of health and well-

being and the protection of self and horne," than toward what we would cons ider

specifically th eological concerns.

Of equal significance is the inclusion of apparently ineffectual stones within the

listings ofthe lapidary texts. Present in both the Latin and vernacular lapidaries, the

presence of these entries within the texts sugges ts a popular fascination with stones which

goe s beyond the virtues that they may possess, fixating on gems and stones as objects of

curiosity in and of themselves. Stones were valued not only for their virtues but as objects

of fascination 4 '> In addition, the lapidaries occas ionally also list stones wh ose virtues are

U This Gennan lapidary is a close copy of Thomas of Camimpre' s encyclopediclapidary which is

also primarily concernedwith medical matters and closes with the riteof the blessing of stones

Thomas of Cantimpre, however, also includesa section on stones with engraved images and their

virtues. See Thomas Cantimpratmsis, Lsoer neNatura Rerum. Editio Princeps Secundum

codicesmanuscriptos. Tei1 l: Text. (Berlin: Walter DeGruyter, 1973), 355-374.

43 De Lapid lbus, PL 197:1247-1266

....DeMineralibus" in Opera Omnia, edited by P. Jammy, volumetwo (Leuven, 1651) 2 10-72.

4S Thomas Cantimpratmsis, Ibid

... Arnold of Saxony, De fimbis rerum noturalium , edited by E. Strange. (Erfult, 1905)

47 Vincentof Beauvais, Speculum Naturale . Volume One. (Douai, 1524; reprint Grae, 1964),4 25­


41 Regarding the stoneGeracite , Volmar recoonts the domestic valueof the stone in keeping flies

out of the house saying"swer sin hils bestriche Imit bonege alsant, Ibeidiu muren unde want, !und

den steintriiege in daa hus, IsOflugen die tliegcn al dar uz: Iswener in truege aber hin, IsOtliigcn

si aher wider in," Lambel, 17:490-496; "yai sayyt ye corall kepes a-waythonduerys & tempestes

whicbe syd yt a man heres him, oyer in hows or in court or in feldes or in ways or in gardyns; &

wher scm ofyl stOll is cast in ye seder he sal kep it fro al tempest ofwedder , ne he wyl suffreno

sdJ.adowoffcndes. He gyffe s in cerinsgud fortce." §21 Coraylein Bodl., Add, A 106, EML, 53.

.. §26, 29, 34 in Bod1.,Douce 291, §2, 33 in Bod!., Add. A 106, §I, 3, I I, 13,21,22,23,28,29,

34-38,57,58. 62,6 7,74,77,87,88,91,92.98, 101, 103, 120, 121, 126, 138, 142, 145 in

[Peterborough, Cathedral 33], §22 in B.M., Sloane 2628, in EML. Volmar says ofgrtindl and


identified but the name and identity ohhe sto ne is closely guarded and never given such as

Vo!mar 's stone with the power to raise the dead. "" These entries within the lapidary text s

suggest that the popularity ofgems and stones went beyond their practical utility . Peopl e

were apparently interested in stones out ofpurely curio sity's sake

The SifZ im Leben described in the lapKtaries is also worth ooting. Tbe locus for

the piety ofthe masseswas clearly the home, the work place , and the world ofday-to-day

affairs Stones are descri bed as being used at borne, in situations ofsocial con tact, during

hunting and travcl - the places where people lived their daily lives. Interestingly, there is

no reference within the published vernacular lapidary texts that stones were used within an

ecclesiastical setting, with the exceptions of the rite of blessing recorded in Thomas of

Ca ntimpre's encyclopedi a and in the St. Florian Steinbcc h, and the stone Celidonie, listed

in the Peterborough lapidary, where it is explained that in order to benefit from virtue of

this store, it mu st be held tightly in the hand w hile attentivdy observing a celebrat ion of

the Mass ,,. The Church and her hierarchy was perceived a resource but were certainly not

redjckhant that "det krefteistnih17.evii" !. 671, Lambei, 22. MarbodIisls §8, 15, 2 1, 23, 33, 35,

31,38, 40, 46, 47,50,52,59,60 in De lapidibusas nol:possessing anypartieular virtue

'" Volmar'sSl einbuoch, II, 141-160 in Lambel, 24-25

'1Iftigbtlyheld in hand in a linen clothduring the Sacrament, Celidomei5desribedas being good

forth eheahb . See§40CeIiJunir,EML 16-77. Brooke& Brookecomnxntregarding layattendance

at the Mass writ ing, "So rare had communion become that at the Fourth Lateran

Councilin 1215 it was thought necessa ry to insist that layfOlkcommunicate at least ooc:ea }"'IlT."

Brooke& Brooke, 115

The close connection between lapidary 've-t u' and Christian 'grace' as noted in the

chapter on the theology of stones , set next to the vernacular pairing of the notions of

'luck' and ' vertu,' pres ents an interesting conceptual triangle within the mindset of

vernacular piety. Magoun notes that a connection between 'heavenly grace' and the

concept of'luck' can already be seen in the epic ofBeowulf l 19 The connectio n between

'gra ce' and 'vertu' is similarly illustrated by the parallel manner in which stone s and the

co nsecrated host of the Mass were used in vernacular piety. Just as the virtues of sto nes

were applied to pragmatic concerns of day-to-day livelihood, Peter Brow e relates that the

consecrated host was oft en stolen from parish churches or privately taken home from a

Mass by the laity and used for any number of purposes ranging from love charms, to

fert ility rites, protection against po ison, and eve n in death spells.Ill} As is clearlyportrayed

in the lapidary texts , stones were used to address the same concerns as in the vernacular

religiou s quest for ' luck' in daily affairs.

The variety ofsto nes that could be app lied to similar conditions may also be a

remnant ofthe experi mental nature of pre-C hristian religiosity within the vernacular piety

ofthe later Middle Ages . Vauchez states that paganism "did not consist of a corpus of

clearly outlined doctrines.'?" Davi dso n likewise comments tha t "in the pre-C hristian

religion there was no obligation to accept a definite cree d or even openl y to acknowledge

power of Jesus Christ_ The same word is alsotranslatcd simply as 'pow er' in Luke 5:17 and


119 Magoun, 40

120 SeePeter Browe, "Die Eucharistic al.sZaubennittel im Mittleatter," Archiv fUr

Ku/turgeschichle 20 (1930): 134-15 4 . Vauchez similarly notesthat "as late as the elcvenh

cent ury, peasants are known to have taken consecrated hosts and bu ried piecesof them in the

groun d in order to increase its fertility . Such practices and other similar ones rreationed in the

penitentials of the time, doubtlessexplainthe clerics' reservations and their lack of eagerness to

give the ir flock s oommunioo." SpMW, 19.

veny m do him barme;"!" similarly, Iracme protects a man that he not be "bytten with

Ileyes, neyper sto nge wi th bene as Dias seyPe; & men suppo3E'Pit helpeJJ a3t'11s vcnym;,,128

of Noset, it says that "Dis stone helpil 83t'11S bntyllges of serpentes& of crepyng wormcs ,

& ajens venym;"I29and about Lince the Sloane lapidary claims tha t "as soonc as Adders

smell therofthey fley away . It is good aga inst euellspirits and euells·,1 3(I It is interesting

that the masses were able to easily and quickly integrate their traditional pagan ideas of

healt h along wit h the recently introduced Christian and lapidary tra ditions . Because ofthis

ada ptability, vern acular piety consisted ofconcepts and practices fro m a variety of

histo rical sources, the pagan, fabulous , and the Christian elemen ts inserted into the

lapidary texts, combining freely into a new "synthetic trad ition" mediat ed by the

institutio ns of medieval culture. 131

Finally, lapidary texts show that ther e was regional variation within vernacular

piety Brooke and Brooke describe this characteristic of the medieval world as follows-

Even in a single place at a single time religious life was complex. ' In Venice

in the early middle ages, the merchant lived a spiritual life different fro m the

sailor of the same town . .. yet both their religions were po pular and different

from the religion ofthe learned. ' This is no invitation to despair or

skepticism, how ever; it urges us to concent rate our attenti on on the known

and the knowable; and ifit obliges us to see popular religion most fully

where it is nearest to the religion ofthe learned and of the hierarch, we shall

find copious hints by the way of what else lies hidden from us .na

Il7 §79 Fimionis [Peterborough, Cathedral 33], EML, 89

m §102 Irachie [Peterborough, Cathedral 33], EML, 97 .

12'J §131Noset [Peterborough, Cathedral 33], EML, 112

no §34 Lince [B.M., Sloane 2628 J, EML, 130

I I I Karen LouiseJoUy notes that while "it may be of interest to the modem scholar to trace the

pagan, Anglo-Saxco,and Christian origins of these remedies, weneedto recognize that the

remedies existedin their own time as integrated wholes, without any self-consciousness ofa

confl ict of traditim.s or beliefs" Jolly, 170

IJJBrooke & Brooke, 6 1-62


undertook to react against them"!" vauc bez relates that "t he ma sses emerg ed from th eir

passivity and aspired to play an acti ve role in the religious domain."!" "With the advent

of th e crusa des, fighting infidel s, and later heretic s and ot her enemies o f the Churc h

became the new dut y (offi cium) of the laity (ordo laicorom)· ,139 Thi s emerging piety,

which enga ged the laity in a religiou s voca tio n as a true order o f th e Chu rch, can be

referred to as a ' spirituality of combat' . The rises of the Or der of Temp lars and the call to

arm s in the Cru sades are but two example s o f thi s development in the vernacular piety of

the Middle Ages .' .fO As Hildburgh not es, "where there are beliefs in potentiall y evil-

w or king beings, there are devices for pro pitiatin g them or , far mor e often, for frighteni ng

them awa y or for inflicting harm on them .", 41 Wit h the threat ofMuslim inva sion, waves

of devastating plagues , and the growing belicf in the imminent retu rn of Christ to judge the

world, the laity emerged on the scene with an aggressive spiritual attitude directed toward

the taking of hea ven by for ce . The lapidarie s illustrate th at stones too were recruited

among the tools and weapons of the people to help them ' fight the good fight' against the

malev olen t forces within the world w and through divine ' luck,' take back the blessed

U7 SpM W, 167-8. Brooke & Brooke also note a shift of themes within the homiletical literature of

the late Middle Ages. "There is a notable change within the medium in the preacher's theme and

empha sis. Judgment and penance and the £ear ofheU were dominantin the 10· and II - centuries ;

in the 12'" and 13

of individual stones . Thus, in addition to a ' spiritual ity of combat.,' the popular piety of

the Middle Ages could also be dubbed a ' spirituality of exploration .'

Excu rsus on the Transmission ofLaoidary-Knowledge

A curiosity of medieval stone-lore is how quicklyit was received and dispersed

throughou t medieval European society. Because of this, it is worth paying briefattention

to the avenues it may have used. Indiscussing the dissemination of cultural traditions,

Robert Lopez states that "unquestionably the elementary vehicle for cultural diffusion is

tanguage"'" which he points out, may be either written or spoken. Robert Lopez

suggests that the broade st channels for the transmissi on of cultural ideas in the Middle

Ages were oral and vemaccler.!" Carl von Sydow outlines four primary channels throug h

which popular trad itions disseminate through a culture He lists popular poetry in which

he includes the popular ballad, popular belief, popular medicine, and customs and beliefs

l 65

connected with work.

The written text was the initial vehicle through which classical lapidary knowledge

entered into the culture of the Middle Ages. l66 Beginning with Marbod 's text, lapidary

knowledge diffused throughout the fullbreadth of European society , capturing the

imagination of scholar s, clerics, and commoners alike. Composed both in Latin and

l61 Robert S. Lopez, "Th e Practical Transmissioo of MedievalCulture" in By Thi ngs See n

Refe ren ce and Recognition in Medieval Though t, edited by David L. Jeffrey . (Ottawa: University

of OttawaPres s, 1979), 125

l""Ibid., 129

1M C arl VOI1 Sydow, "On the Spread ofTraditioo" in Se lecte d Paper s on Fo lklore : Puhltshedon

the Occa sion ofhis 7rf' Birthday (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1948), 22-23. Hildburgh,

235, points to custom, religion, and literature as the cause for the persistenceofpopular religiosity

within a society

manuscripts likewise give indications on the manner in which this lapidary knowledge was

transmitted throughout medieval society




Marvin Owings states that "the literature of any period is the product, directl y or

indirectly. of the age which produced it ,,1 This is certainl y the case with the corpu s of

medieval lapidary texts whose geographical, linguistic . and social distribution reveals the

width and breadth of medieval societ y within which the fascination with stone s was

distributed and received . Not only do the lapidaries illustrate the beliefs of medieval

society rega rding the virtu es of stones and how they were used and applied in the day-to-

day lives of"historically determined human beings.?" but also provide an opportunity to

study both the presence and intera ction of both deliberative and embedded streams of

thought' within the social and intellectual world of the Middle Ages The lapidaries reveal

that stones were clearly objects offascination not only in the academies and the cloisters

but also in the villages among the common folk alike.

Due to the unique distribu tion of popular inter est. medieval lapidary literature

provides an unparalleled vantage point from which to study the piety and world-view of

the later Middle Ages. The breadth of medievallapidary literature encompasses not onl y

reflections ofmedieval society . but also the breadth ofacadernic enquiry from the

vernacular to the scientific, from the popular to the theological. As such, lapidary texts

1 MarvinAlpheus Owings. the Arts in the Middle English Romances (New York: Twayne

Publishers. 1952; reprint Ne">V Yorlc AMS Press. 1971). 17

I SpMW, 9.


are artifa ct s that illustrate a broad cultural synthesi s o f scientific though t, religiou s piety,

and vernacular beliefs which prov1dc a rich and fertile ground in whicbtherdigious life

and cultu re of'the Middle Ages ca n be studted' With this broad synthesis comes also a

br oad er window thr ough which th e Middle Ages can be view ed and bet ter u nderstood.

Like an icon, which for the Byzan tine monk , afford s a window ofperception to heaven ,

the lapidary text provides for the medievalist a window through which the breadth of

medieval piety can beexamined - from the vernacu lar to the aca demic - allowing him to

gaze into the depths ofhistory and to cont em plate thelife o f another world and another

Contrary to modem sensibilities which wou ld like to relegate lapidaries and their

contents to th e realm oftile fabu lou s. the lap idary literature de mo nstrates that the

medi eval fasci nation wi th stone s w as far from a 'little traditio n' within the wo rld-view of

the Midd le Ages. The broad distributi on oflapidary literature and hymnic texts quickly

dispe ls thi s not ion. Lapidary texts emerg ed not onlyin the vernacular, but also from the

universities, the encyclopedists and evenappearing in theological and religious circles

With such 21widedistribution both socially , geographically, and linguisticall y, it is hard to

conceive of'tapidary-lor e as being a minor tradition stratified within the broader medieval

wo rld . Co ntrary to the approachofRobert Redfiel d, lapidary texts themselves

demonstrat e that th e medi eval fasci nation with stone s was a unified synthes is w hich

stretched acro ss the width and breadth of medieval society.

) Howard W . StlD: and James o. Duk e, HCIW to Think TheolOgically(Minnea lKllis: Fortress

Press, 1996,. 13·16

4 RK:bardKieddlefef ,MagiCin 1MMiddle Agrs (Cambridge: CambridgeUnivers ity rr-. 1989).



These lapidaries paint a picture very different from a stratified social setting with

currents and undercurrents flowin g to and fro, Instead, the lapid ary literature reveals a

view of medi eval societ y that may be compared to a rich tapes try with ma ny interw oven

themes tha t intermin gle freely acro ss the brea dth of its fabric . Thesethemes both emerge

from and are supported by the three pillars ofAristotelian science,Christian theology, and

the verna cul ar concepts rooted in pre-C hristian wor ld-views. Each threa d intermin gles

free ly, as Kar en Jolly no tes, "w ithout any self-consciousness of a conflict o f traditions or

be liefs'" to form the rich tapestry of medieval cultur e.'

Clearlythen, the corpus ofmedieval lapidary texts is unique in the opportunity that

it presents to modern scholars oftbe Middle Ages. Not only does it provide infonnatio n

regard ing med ieval tradi tions of medicine, earl y pharmacology , nascent mineralogy, and

eso teric traditions as have alread y been studied, but it also pro vides a window o n the

sc ientific and theological cu lture ofthe day and how they interact wit h the foreeof

traditional vernacular conceptions of religion. It stradd les not only medieval intelJectu ai

cu lture, bu t also that o f piety and the practical concerns of'day-ro-day living . The lapidary

literatur e provides a fertil e ground from which to study the interact io n bet wee n the

intellectual currents, vernacular be liefs, theo logical tenets, emergi ng sciences, re ligious

pieties, and every-day human concerns and considerations oflater medievalsociety, and

the further o ppo rtunity to exam ine the emergent synthesis of bow it came to belived by

"historically det ermined human beings."? It o ffers a rich opportunity for students of

, Karen Louise Jolly, POplllar Rehgion i" l,ote sawn F-nrJond. (Qlape l Hill: The Universityof

NorthCarolin:ll Press, 1996), 170

'"Lifi:appea«ld to themas somethingwholly mtegrated. , UmbertoBee, An and &auty '" the

MiddJrAgt-s, translatedby Hugh Bredin (New tbvm: ValeUnivenit y Pross. 19&6), 16

' SpMW, 9.


intellectual history to study the intentction o f embedded and deliberative beliefs within the

co ntext of later med iev al society. It provi des an image o f «religio n as it [was] lived: as

hum an being s enco unte r, understand, interpret, and pract ice it.."

What is clear from the bod y of recent stud ies in lapidary texts is that lap idaries

have not been studiedto their run po tentia L ThefundamentalditrK:Ulty. which has limited

the se modern studies, is the per sistent failure to recognize the cu ltural significance o f the

lapi dary tex ts as th e context in whi ch they must be stud ied in order to unfold their full

signi ficance . It is evident from the texts tha t ther e w as a popularand widespread

fascination with stones and theirascribed virt ues . This fascination clearl y stretched from

the aca demy to the clo ister, and fro m there , to the highways and byways ofvemaeular

co ncerns. As such, the lapidary liter atu re offers a tru ly unique synthesis withi n the corpus

o f med ieval source text s providing a broad cross-sectional view o f the social . religious,

and intellectual world of the M iddle Ages . The corpus oflapidary liter ature does not

represent a fabulous u ndercurr ent of narve. primitiv e, Of peripheral ideas to the world­

view of medi eval culture. Th e linguisti c, soci al, and geo gr aphical distribution ofthe texts

themselves sta nds in damnin g witness against this feeb le opinion . Rather. lapidary texts

are the products ofa vibr ant and perv asive medi eval belief in the pow ers and virt ues o f

stones. As sud1, the corpus of medieval lapidary text s remains IlI1 untapped source for the

study of the medieval worl d. Thi s untapped potential warrants a renewed inter est and


Joseph Frank Pa yne stated the matter we ll at the tum ofthe twentieth century. He

wrote that "t heonlyway to undemand theseold writ ers is to try to put ourselves as far as

I LeooardNormanPrimiano, "'Vernacular ReligionaDdthe Search for Methodin Religious

possi ble in thei r place , and conceive how nat ure and science presented themsetves to the

eyes of the early teac her and learner" as they tried to understand the wonders ofnature

11Iat they tried to undentand them at aUis a proc f eftheir wisdom, not oftheir folly....

This is certainlytrue of the medieval lapidarists and the mas ses ofpeople who read and

used the lapidaries both in the cloisters and in their homes. Whilemodem individuals may

question the medieval bdiefin the magical powers of stones, it behooves us to sto p and

marvelat the beau ty o f the living synth esis which emergeswithin the medieval melting-po t

ofdaily life, re ligious spirituality, scientific und erstanding, and verna cu lar thought

Volmar summariz es this synthes is wel l in the conc lusion of'his Stemo uoch. 10

Tho ught he speaks direct ly ofsto nes and their virt ue s, his sentiment ca n equally be

ap pro priated and app lied to ou r app reciation o flapidary texts and the insight s into

medieva l life and society that they offe r.

Hie hat dizbuoch einende

go1 muez in iemer schenden,

der edel n steinen iemermere

sprechedeheine unere.

ob ir debein sobcese si

den mceee got eren lizen vri

nber aI die krist enhei t

wan er hit sinkust an si ge leit

daz vii manegem kiinne

si gebengrou wOnne.

Here does this book come to an end

God must always chastise

him who ever speaks dishonourably

about precious stones

Even if you are so wickedly inclined

God allOW!their honour freecourse

throughout all ofChristendom.

Fo r He hasforged His craft in them

that theywork great wonders,

they give great joy .

f olklife," Western Folk/ore 54 (Janua ry, 1995), 44

, Joseph FrankPayne, English MediCine in the Anglo-Saxon Times (Oxford The Clarendon Press,

1904), 38-9.

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